By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer, Photographer
Johnson County residents are a bit spoiled when it comes to natural beauty. Its difficult to turn a corner in Johnson County and not witness some breathtaking display or another. Whether its a doe moving cautiously in a lush spring field with her careless fawn bounding happily behind her or the way the clouds cast shadows upon the mountains creating a luminescent metamorphosis similar to the shimmering coat of black bear as it moves along the banks of the creek there is always some exhibition of grander to be found in Johnson County. As a result, the beauty of the surrounding areas often goes unexplored.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, which can be accessed throughout our neighboring states of North Carolina and Virginia, was completed in 1983. Construction on the parkway began in 1935 as a part of The New Deal a series of government programs launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an effort to pull a struggling country out of the Great Depression. As is the case with National Parks throughout the U.S., the Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed with preservation in mind. Both Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt envisioned facilitating Americans with the means to enjoy the natural wonders America has to offer, while also ensuring that those wonders be preserved for future generations.
The nearest Blue Ridge Parkway access for Johnson County residents is just a heartbeat away in Boone, North Carolina. From there, the parkway beckons you north or south through forests, past lakes, fields, streams, and pastureland. Long range views that when witnessed makes one understand the full meaning of purple mountains majesty are readily available and easily accessed throughout the parkway.
Some of the attractions that can be accessed via the parkway or in close proximity to include Chimney Rock, Hickory Ridge Homestead, The Natural Bridge, The Blowing Rock, Blue Ridge Farm Museum, Booker T. Washington National Monument, Bristol Caverns, Gem Mountain, Grand Caverns, Grandfather Mountain, the Lost Sea, The North Carolina Arboretum and Virginia Safari Park. There are also hundreds of hiking trails throughout.
There are 12 major waterfalls throughout the Blue Ridge Parkway. Wigwam Falls, Apple Orchard Falls, Fallingwater Cascades, Duggers Creek Falls, Crabtree Falls, Glassmine Falls, and Douglas Falls make up several of the major Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfalls. Boone Fork Falls (mile post 296.4) and Linville Falls (mile post 316.4) are both within a reasonable distance to Johnson County. The trail to Boone Fork Falls is a 5 mile strenuous hike, while Linville Falls is an easy to moderate 1-1.6 mile hike.
Sections of the parkway are often closed during the winter months, however, weather permitting, much of the Blue Ridge Parkway can be utilized year round. A sunset drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway is certain to chase away the winter blues.